Sunday, 7 September 2014
ADRIAN DANTLEY Feature-REACH & TEACH
By TIM DAVID HARVEY
7.00am. A early morning, fall Winter mist outside your frosting window matches the steam whistling from your kettle on the inside. You pour two cups of coffee...you and your husband are going to need them today. He switches the half piece of buttered toast from his mouth to his hand not holding a suitcase as he kisses you on the cheek and tells you he loves you whilst putting on the other half of his suit jacket and heading towards the door for another day at the office. Before he leaves he gives you a knowing wink and directs your attention towards the 'Captain America' and 'Frozen' lunch-boxes. You smile warmly. He's got the school run tomorrow. Then after holding your warm cup of java and savouring the steam and wake up and smell the coffee feeling of morning, your peace is interrupted by what seems like a hurricane of horses galloping down the stairs. Your two kids hug your legs with an excitement that begs for another snow day. 'Not today' you think as you make sure their scarves are tied and their hats are on properly as they giggle. You hand them their lunch with a kiss as you all head for the door, only for you to come back and reach for the keys on the countertop. Leaving home you rush walk against the wind, cold, clock and what already seems like too tired legs for two young people. You're tired yourself but then as you reach the crossing right ahead of school a long wingspan and big palm signaling stop wakes you up. It's the tallest man you've seen all week. Wait a minute...
Wait just one minute. You recognise this crossing guard. The distracting reflectors or the biting cold balaclava don't fool you. That's former All-Star and one of the greatest NBA players and scorers of all-time Adrian Dantley. Directing the traffic he used to drive through down the lane as a basketball God. But why? Surely he doesn't need to?! Still the ever hard working A.D. wants to just do something and give back to his community. As nice as he was as a coach for Carmelo Anthony and the Denver Nuggets that direction didn't end up on the same path that everyone wanted. Besides the league doesn't pay its vets health insurance. Saving wayward kids from getting run over like he used to save loose balls from going out of bounds on a morning and afternoon shift for around 40 bucks an hour does. Eastern Middle School in Silver Spring, Md's intersection is now the daily domain of a man who used to own 94 by 50 feet of hardwood court nightly. Now this guy truly is something. A great man of both the local and NBA community. A Hall Of Famer, 30 point average scoring machine and two time leading champ the likes of Iverson, Kobe and Kevin Durant can only relate to. A purists, pure scoring favourite 'The Teacher' was taking people to school before directing people to it in a basketball education. Entering the L in the late 70's and playing during that next decades Magic/Bird, Lakers/Celtics golden era A.D. represents one of the last of truly the best. You know like when music sounded so Motown great before all that next generation R&B kind of watered it down somewhat. Like classic woodgrain and leather, American muscle cars before things in the automobile industry became a little too safe and plastic clunky. A.D. represents the good old days. An original like the Adidas he wore. No wonder the three stripes have made him part of their 'Top Ten' signature. Just don't ask for his autograph while he's trying to do his current job. Besides have you ever seen someone try and get in his way as he cut through traffic playing in the NBA?
B.C. Before the God M.J. there was A.D. A 6, 5, S.F./S.G. out of D.C. with a A plus bball I.Q. Forget about a basketball jones when Delano Dantley was in the zone. He was smoking as he put out the opposition like a cigarette butt in an afterthought ashtray. Those legendary Buffalo Braves selected the Notre Dame college star with the 6th pick '76 draft, who became a Rookie Of The Year and Montreal Olympics Gold medal winner on his way to a 6 time All-Star career. One that would garner him the Oscar Robertson trophy to his cabinet and those career book line averages of around 24 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists are like the mighty O too. The consensus All-American in college is second all time in fighting Irish scoring and first in charity stripe buckets earned and paid off. Him and his Dame also upset and ended John Wooden and UCLA's legendary and storied 88 game winning streak. Bruising the Bruins and big man Bill Walton whilst showing future fellow 80's Laker Jaamal Wilkes who was really as smooth as silk. The leading scorer of Notre Dame also paced the gold winning Team U.S.A. in Canada,leading all scorers when he wasn't even a rookie of the National Basketball Association. When the NBA did start signing his cheques he braved out some time with Buffalo where the future Los Angeles Clippers had a big three herd of R.O.Y.'s in a half decade. So much so that the team probably thought they where justified in shipping him to Indianapolis where he kept up the scoring pace in the city of fast cars and now fast buckets clutched before Reggie Miller had his time in town. Still after a Michael Jordan number of games, A.D. was on the road again like Willie Nelson and we aren't talking about a 7 day trip across country. Forget what would be the Clippers, Adrian Dantley was in California playing for the Los Angeles Lakers with THE Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, pouring and scoring when they said it never rained in Southern California.
In the pre-Magic kingdom, showtime era that featured wing wonders like Wilkes and current Head Coach Byron Scott, many forget like Bob McAdoo that another prolific power playing great suited up for the storied purple and gold in his and the Lakers rich and vibrant history. Perhaps it was because it wouldn't be long before he was soon off again for the then purple of the Utah Jazz. An All-Star journeyman being shipped around as trade bait for his fourth team in as many years? Maybe that's why he dropped one of the numbers on his 44 jersey. But like Jordan wearing the 45 he wasn't there to play games with you, but take aims at you. As the Jazz associated game of NBA basketball before the hip-hop of Jay-Z had an instrumental Utah leader playing and singing from the baseline. Like a saxophone ringing through the Salt Lake City night (doesn't sound the same like New Orleans does it?) the league really heard from Dantley as he led the NBA in scoring twice as he spent the lions share of his career proudly playing with the Jazz. At his professional peak, Adrian was a scoring mole and all six of his All-Star spots where during his seven years in Nevada. Not even torn ligaments in his wrist could stop the net snapping of A.D. Still a change of motor saw him join the 'Bad Boy' assembly line for the Detroit Pistons where he became more than just another cog in the Isiah Thomas machine. His former teammate and NBA role playing, champion great John Salley told us last month, "teach' really helped me in the way I dealt with people and being the best professional I could possibly be". Salley now known as an active vegan promoter also had a seed planted by his 'teacher' mentor after the professionaly and physically in shape Dantley once told him straight after a hard practice, "hows that cheeseburger treating you"? After the former Jazz player made music playing points in Motown be became a Maverick donning Dallas green like city and colour. Becoming a Texas quick draw with his high percentage shot for his last two career years before a 10 day stint with the green of Milwaukee for a quick buck and stint. Blowing a whistle on his playing career this guy now moonlights as a referee, stopping players in their tracks once again. The mid-range game of this legend scored him a place in the hall and a retirement in the rafters but the man who earned his living from the free throw line (sharing an attempts record with another scoring icon Wilt Chamberlain) now maintains one from the crossing line. From courtside to roadside, this changing of the guard will always keep this legend the same thing, hard-working, professional and a valued member of the community. Don't you know by now? Everything runs through A.D. Stop, look, listen!